by Cari Cole
Music is not a one-size-fits-all industry. It’s not only for pop radio. No, no, no. There’s all kinds of music. There’s Bluegrass, Zydeco, Cuban, Chant & Devotional music, Classical jazz, Piano music (I love Dustin O’Halloran), Big Band, Punk, Goth – I could go on and on and on and on. When it comes to music, it’s all the colors of the rainbow.
Think about it for a minute. Do you not love many different kinds of music? You’re not a one lane kind of musician – right? You love Stevie (Wonder, Nicks, Winwood), James (Taylor, Bay or Blake), John (Mayer, Legend, Lennon), Jesse (J, Hale-Moore, McCartney)… there are many styles and flavors to fit your mood, and many different playlists to suit your experiences.
But I see a lot of musicians thinking that the music business is a one-size-fits-all kind of game. That you’re either heading for pop stardom, a big label and commercial radio or you might as well forget it. And while that’s for some of you (and that’s awesome too), it’s not for all of you, and you’ve got to make that alright. Matter of fact, the sooner you figure out where you’re headed and exactly the kind of music you want to make (not what you think you should make), the sooner you can get on track to it. Having a niche is actually a good thing. You don’t have to be a certain kind of musician to be successful. That’s way to narrow for you!
Because just as important as the kind of music you want to make, is carving your own unique path in the music business. The business is not a one-size-fits-all kind of business. No, no, nope. There’s a different side of the biz for different genres. There’s festivals for everyone. Folk Fest & Bluegrass Festival in Telluride CO, Jazz Fest in New Orleans, Rock Fests, Hip Hop Fests, you name it, it probably exists.
But you gotta find your lane, where you belong. And it won’t just walk into greet you. You have to go get it. And you have to find the right people in the industry into that kind of music. The kind you and they, are passionate about.
One of the mistakes I see a lot of artists making is thinking that people in the industry are all the same. Nope, nada, niente. People in the industry are just as selective about music as you are. So that’s why it’s even more important to do your research when you’re talking to them.
And it’s not just peeps in the industry, it’s the cities where certain music is dominant, it’s the clubs you choose play (or target), the audience you go for, and the path you carve. Where do you belong?
Maybe you’ve been out there for awhile and you’re trying to break through, and maybe are a bit panicked about it? Maybe you’re getting anxious about having a “hit” or growing your fanbase? Or maybe you’re trying to find yourself as an artist, or what to do next business wise?
Maybe you can’t envision where you fit, ‘cause your music doesn’t vibe with the local scene, or maybe you’re a yoga Mom whose music is best for some down dog. Or maybe you’re a house concert queen who loves an intimate scene with a local winery and chef, or you’re a rocker stadium dude through and through who sweats it out jumping around a big stage… The truth is, there’s a place for every kind of music, every kind of artist imaginable. The trick is finding and carving your path and place.
Easier said than done, I know.
It starts by getting real with yourself.
What do you want? Are you hot to tour, or you’re touring now and that’s where you LIVE. Or are you best hanging local, a big fish in a small pond, sauntering up to the local venue on a Friday night where you play your ever-loving guts out and shred that guitar?
After 30+ years of working with the most amazing artists, I know for a fact, that there is a place for everyone… you just have to find it.
Here are my 3 Top Tips for How To Carve Your Path In Music. I hope it helps you nail it!
1. Follow Your Bliss
Let the music lead you. What kind of music do you listen to a lot? What kind of sound turns you on the most? And careful – not just what’s trending, but what you really admire? Follow your bliss and instincts to lead you to your sound. And don’t be afraid to experiment until you find it
2. Research Similar Artists Rise
Wikipedia and Google are your friend. These days you can pretty easily find out information about just about any artist out there. Research how similar artists made their rise. Make a list of strategies they followed, how many years it took them. Let the ideas flow ;).
3. Make a List of Labels, Managers, Booking Agents, Festivals
While you’re researching similar artists, look up who they worked with? What label they started out on, who managed them at the beginning of their careers, what producers they worked with or what festivals they played at. You can find out a lot about the industry by doing this kind of research. You can also flag industry folks you think would be good for you – and you’ve got some of their history down for when you meet them.
Remember this. Everyone starts from zero. You CAN DO THIS.